When the Florida Gators roll into town this weekend, it will be nearly a year to the day since the Volunteers were in Gainesville, Fla. for a similar game.

Almost a year since Tennessee's season took a turn for the worst. When the Vols suffered their first loss of the season and lost their leading receiver for the season.

"Last year this time we were 2-0, feeling good," Derek Dooley said. "We were chucking the ball around the park. We thought we were pretty good and went down there and got our tails whipped."

Tennessee was 2-0 after wins against Montana and Cincinnati, and Justin Hunter had 302 yards receiving on 16 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Hunter was leading the nation at that point with his unreal 151 yards per game average and 18.5 yards per reception average.

But during the Vols' fourth play from scrimmage in week three, Hunter went down and immediately after making a 12-yard catch knew he was in trouble.

"I knew right away that it was bad," Hunter said. "I had landed and felt something pop."

The Volunteers immediately felt the impact of Hunter going down, as it seemed the team was shaken for the remainder of the game. The Vols ended up falling to the Gators 33-23.

Hunter and the Vols found out soon after the game that the star receiver would be lost for the season with a torn ACL.
"It was clear that it was a break in your spirit when you saw it happen," Dooley said in last season's press conference. "I could tell when he went down that it had an effect on our team. It is an effect and you have to come out of it and play out of it because it is part of the game. It is very unfortunate, but that is the way it is."

The junior wide receiver was forced to watch from the sidelines for the remainder of the year and had to look on as the Volunteers continued the season.

"Just watching them out there during practice having fun, playing in the game and I wasn't able to help," Hunter said. "I just had to be there cheering them on."

Tennessee went on to finish the season 5-7 and didn't make a bowl game, but Hunter is focused on this year.
"That's the game I left on the field and I can't have it back," Hunter said. "I was going into the season real good and that was a setback for me."

As the Volunteers and Gators get set for the weekend match up, the conditions leading up to the game are similar to last year's.

The Vols and Gators are both 2-0, Tennessee is riding high after two convincing wins, the running game has questions and the passing game looks like one of the best in the country. The only real change is that ESPN's "College GameDay" is going to be in town.

Although there is extra hype around the game, Hunter is focused on other things.

"'College GameDay' is going to be here so everyone is excited. For the team I think it's the same as always," Hunter said. "It's the same every week. Just trying to go out there and work hard. Trying to be productive in practice and get better every day."

Hunter has racked up numbers close to his from last season, 17 receptions for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns, but Florida is his and the Volunteers' real test.

"Since the time I got hurt I wanted to play so bad. Ever since that day I've been wanting to play them again," said Hunter.

"We have more depth so we look better," Dooley said. "But we'll see on Saturday."

There is a lot of excitement around Knoxville for the upcoming game, but when Hunter hits the field Saturday he has something to prove.


"I played just two games last year and I want to show them what I can do when I'm 100 percent."